If you and your co-parent are going to be living some distance apart after your divorce, you may be considering letting your child fly alone as they transition between you during summer vacations, school breaks and holidays. If you agree to do this, you’ll need to work out the costs and other logistics in your divorce agreements.
Airline travel is stressful enough for adults. It’s only natural that you’d feel some anxiety about your child doing this alone. That’s why it’s wise to find out more about airlines’ unaccompanied minors (UM) programs – and particularly the ones offered by the airlines you’re most likely to use.
Choosing the right airline and flights
Typically, UM programs are for children between 5 and 15. Each airline has its own age requirements, but only you know if your child is ready to fly on their own.
When choosing an airline (if you have a choice), it’s best to select one that has non-stop flights between your and your co-parent’s home (or at least to an airport within convenient driving distance). Some airlines require UM passengers to travel on non-stop flights. It’s also best to book your child on a flight early in the day that’s less likely to be canceled or delayed than later flights.
What services do UM programs include?
Different UM programs provide different services and levels of attention, and their fees vary. Typically, you want to make sure you can hand off your child directly to an airline employee who will get them on the plane and buckled up, that a flight attendant will keep an eye on them throughout the flight and then that they’ll be handed over safely to your co-parent.
Remember, though, that flight attendants cannot babysit your child. While getting them a seat in the front or in business or first class can get them more attention, they still have to be able to entertain themselves without disturbing other passengers.
There’s a lot more to know about required documentation and ensuring that your child has proper ID and knows how to get help if they need it. You may want to accompany them a time or two on a flight before letting them fly solo. As noted, if you believe air travel will be part of your co-parenting, it’s important to address it in your custody and support agreements and your parenting plan.